Monday, September 29, 2014

#4 Frankenstein

So, Universal finally makes the Top 10..
I would argue that Universal never made a bad classic Frankenstein film, but when Karloff stopped plugging in the neck-bolts things definitely dropped off a bit. At number four we have the one that started it all (that Edison short that nobody has ever seen doesnt count).

In my arsehole opinion James Whales' Frankenstein is FAR superior to Tod Browning's Dracula (though between the two of these films that came out the same year you have the visual inspiration for horror, Halloween and Monster kid collectible culture that has lasted every decade since). Quite a lasting impact!

While Bela's take on Dracula is spooky and deliberate, Karloff as The Monster perfectly conveys unpredictable horror that could just as soon murder you as befriend you.

Dracula is the driest, almost silent-film quiet and utterly lacking music - but it is Frankenstein is where we first hear the beginnings of that beautiful familiar Universal Horror score that would continue all through the Universal Monster cycle. It's almost as big a presence as the monster itself. This first installment of an (unintended at the time) trilogy is the one that introduces us all to these characters that would be taken on over and over again throughout the decades. The Doc, the hunchback, the burgomaster, "guy carrying his dead child" and of course the angry mob running through the woods with torches..

Top 4 easily, but not quite the best of these films - the production on Karloff Frank films would improve greatly just in a few years while this film was just a bit early and rough.

Disagree? Well guess what - I can make boat, and it's time for you to shove off!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

#5 The Revenge of Frankenstein

I had seen and known The Curse of Frankenstein from TV boroadcasts, Creature Features etc. while the follow-up 'Revenge' had been far more hit and miss on TV. It eluded me for years. Even more recently it surprisingly has been left off of the Hammer DVD mini sets for some reason. Only able to catch partial airings for years I finally was able to catch this one in its entirety and it was everything I hoped it would be - starting off right where Curse had left off, with Cushing's Dr. Frankenstein escaping the guillotine and making off to the Hammer set for Horror of Dracula (filmed back to back) at Bray.

The ole Doc is once again up to no good as he's been running a pauper's hospital by day and tending to the swapping out of chimpanzee brains by night. 

Dr. Frankenstein has his own "Karl" in this film and just like Ygor and "friend" Daniel from the Universal films he covets going under the knife to attain a new body. That plan never works out.
Karl gets his operation and awakes a real fine stitched-up-dandy. He's hipper than Tony from Saturday Night Fever for a minute - but like Michael Sarrazin from Frankenstein: The True Story he devolves into something that resembles a meth fiend after a 4 day tweaker.

Meanwhile a character simply called "Up Patient" (must be some British hooey) played by the late great Richard Wordsworth (The beggar from Curse of The Werewolf) is just busy stealing the show with some great bits about how a few fine years worth of dirt and general un-bathed livin' keeps a man healthy, happy and upright. That and being a professional snoop - which is never a good thing around ol Dr. Frankenstein.

Things go south, people start dying - the usual Frankenstein antics, then the people go after the Doc..

The ending of this film is another great twist in the Hammer Frankenstein series.
You just can't keep the good doc down…

Saturday, September 27, 2014

#6 Frankenstein and The Monster From Hell

One of the strangest Hammer Frankenfilms - and one that is often snubbed by critics is Peter Cushing's last turn as the finest Dr. Frankenstein in classic horror. This one also happens to be the final Terrance Fisher film for Hammer.
The old Doc has been locked away in a crumbly ole prison - but he is assessing then assembling his fellow inmates into a quite grizzly Super-Frank..

This freak show features possibly the craziest looking "Monster" outside of Toho-Frank. David "Darth Vader" Prowse is encased in a jiggly mass of hair, blood and drippy meat.

I'll be perfectly honest - when I was a kid looking at pics of this monster in Famous Monsters of Filmland I mistook the title meaning "Frankenstein" the monster - was going to do battle with this hairy behemoth. I hadn't figured out yet that Hammer never did Monster Mashes and that the big oaf was the Frankenstein's Monster - albeit this doctor's umpteenth creature. Hammer never brought Frankie back the way Universal did. That privilege was apparently saved for Count Dracula.

This film mostly takes part in the claustrophobic confines of the dank old prison and there are some interesting twists ala a mute female assistant that is Dr. Frankenstein's "hands" - as his are damaged from fire (that Hammer continuity).

It doesn't necessarily stand higher than a few of the other Hammer Frankie films but for sheer shock impact regarding that wild monster and loads of quite gruesome sequences it is one I have fond nostalgic regard for this Franken-freakout of a film..

With 5 spots left this is probably my last 'flex' entry. Some seriously serious Frankenstein coming your way next!

Friday, September 26, 2014

#7 Young Frankenstein

Not lacking for popularity or rabid fan appreciation I still always thought Young Frankenstein was far superior to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and could have / should have been the ultimate "audience participation" midnight movie.

While Mel Brooks' black and white masterpiece is smack full of legendary schtick and hilarious punchlines, it's attention to detail regarding the three great Karloff-era Universal Frankenstein films is what really makes this flivver giv'r.  Gene Wilder's "Dr. Frahnkensteen" is unmistakably inspired mostly by the Basil Rathbone "Wolf von Frankenstein" character that apprehensively inherited this monster problem - not just with the tall guy with bolts in his neck but the hump-backed, gallows-robbing sidekicks Ygor/I-gor.

The scenes where the monster (Peter Boyle) encounters De Lacey (the blind man in the cottage - played by an uncredited Gene Hackman) is some of the greatest slapstick put to film.
If a boiling bowl of soup in the lap and a well lit hot-thumb doesn't make you laugh out loud then you may yourself be a humorless corpse.

I often wondered if Hackman going uncredited had any connection to John Carradine doing the same in the blind man scene from Bride of Frankenstein.

From securing the original Frankenstein's lab machinery to recreating a perfect Lawrence Talbot "there-wolf" forest to spinning book-cases and one-armed, dart slinging burgomasters - all the parts are here for a successful Franky flick that is very worthy of any top-ten Frankenfilm list…

I just wish Boyle would have had some stitches across his noggin.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

#8 Frankenstein: The True Story

In the 70's certain, sometimes partially episodic Made-for-TV movies became can't-miss family events. Roots, Dead Man's Curve, Sybil etc. were among these. The horror classics were well represented amongst these mostly-made to-sell-ads experiences. Kolchak/Night Stalker came from this territory. Jack Palance did a stint as Count Dracula etc.
And then there was Frankenstein: The True Story, a 185 minute formal attempt at retelling Shelley's novel - starring hunky, Mick Jagger-esque, Canadian Michael Sarrazin as the monster and a young Jane Seymour (ages prior to her turning a lame doodle into a mass produced gold charm) and James Mason a few years before Salem's Lot..

 I recall settling in - in front of the TV to catch the first third of each installment (I of course fell asleep missing most of the original airings) As a young whippersnapper  I would not have differentiated this production from a Hammer film (filmed at Pinewood) and to be honest it wouldn't be hard to envision Peter Cushing and his funky electro paddle-fans pop in for a spot of afternoon tea.

The movie is long and sometimes boring, but the great de-volving monster aspect really fascinated me (I'd later figure out Hammer had already kinda covered this territory in a film that will be much higher up the list). Sarrazin transforming into an old drippy potato is a visual I wouldn't soon forget. You have floppy, sawed-off arms, heads floating in jars, people freezing to death - and then of course there is the whole "people getting flipped into a large acid vat" aspect (again already done by Hammer). This movie taught me that Frankenstein didn't just have to be Karloff with a squared head, he was for the most part a tragic victim of another man's ego.

This title "The True Story" definitely left me with the impression that all of this really happened - and that the monster was a guy who actually lived someplace where people had British accents and kept huge acid vats in their garages. In fact when I grow up I'm getting one installed in my back yard.
And you're invited to go for the first swim, fucker.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#9 Frankenstein Conquers The World

The top Frankenstein film countdown continues..

No amount of premo 19th Century Chinese opium could prepare Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley for the thought of her modern literary Prometheus growing to the size of the jolly green giant, roaming the Japanese hillsides eating cow-sushi and smashing army tanks. But then again, she just might have burned her original manuscripts had she known they would some day be bastardized into something as crass and utterly shitty as I, Frankenstein or Van Helsing.

The early moments of Frankenstein Conquers The World almost seem to suggest that the US' horrific bombing of Hiroshima may have actually spared the Japanese from an altogether different, imminent fate - uncontrolled hoards of reanimated Franken-Nazis! Unfortunately for the Japanese not only do they have to endure the bomb, but later the radioactive zone changes a human-sized Frank into Kong-sized Frank!

As "Flankenstein" roams the country-side showing off his uncontrolled gingivitus and chomping down ever-larger farm animals, he encounters a true classic kaiju in the monster Baragon. Though this puppy-eared 'knee-ped' (not to be confused with Barugon, the Gamera foe with the Gene Simmons tongue) more effectively resembles a rejected creature from Ultraman, he has the dubious honor of being the only monster in all of horror-cheesedom to have been featured as a reptilian punching bag for both Frankenstein and Godzilla.

As expected, Frankie and Baragon battle it out. Boats are destroyed. Some trees are thrown around and there is of course the typical "where did that come from?" Japanese kaiju monster-fight climax as both get swallowed up in a Mid-Kentucky style sinkhole. Toho's feature followups would seem to indicate that Frankenstein is the one that doesn't make it out alive.

The excellent sequel to this film War of The Gargantuas laments some absurb DNA reanimation scenario but to be honest they should have just said giant Frankenstein knocked paws with King Kong and spawned hairy, multi-colored twins.

What makes this Frank a top tenner? Most likely the fact that the film is as totally enjoyable as it is utterly preposterous. It looks good visually and is every bit as loony as a late Sunday night commercials on Adult Swim. Got to see this one with a tub of greasy popcorn on the big screen at a Saturday drop off matinee in the 70's. It was a fine weekend. Nostalgia again trumps typical cinematic reverence.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Horror Hootenanny 11

Our 11th year of Shlock and Rock is upon us! This year we move the festivities to the new Cult Fiction Underground Theater location. This affords us the opportunity to show films, trailers and a legit Midnight Movie! We have chosen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for our first and our special guest John Dugan - who played grandpa in the film will be on hand.

Click image to enlarge..

Top 10 Frankenstein Films - #10 Dracula vs Frankenstein

This Horror-ween season I'm counting down my top Frankenstein flicks. I don't plan on retracing entire plots (which can be found in 100 different places with one click online) but essentially share what I loved about them..

And #10 is.....
1971's Dracula vs Frankenstein!
Yeah, this cheeser is more about The Count than The Monster - but to a young kid growing up in the 70's, brief shots of this pie-faced Prometheus was all that was necessary to get the job done. Though today Al Adamson's flick seems pretty comical, at the time I was first seeing this one on late-night Creature Feature it was actually one of the more effectively scary movies the local channel would run. It's a fairly bloody film and for kids like me who were not yet exposed to gorier stuff like  Night of The Living Dead or HG Lewis flicks it left a lasting imprint.

There is a real intensity and vibe of dread to the musical score even if it is juxtaposed against an absurd, jazz-man looking Count (The mighty Zandor Vorkov) and his bizarre, echo-ey speaking voice (and dime-store plastic fangs), evil dwarves and a very old J. Carrol Naish who's dentures click like a telegraph during all of his speaking scenes. Someone had some real fun with the theramin here.

The Monster is played (mostly) by John Bloom who was obviously chosen for his mammoth stature - and as crazy as this walking corpse looks I imagine it's not far from what a real man, sewn together from graveyard bits might look like. Years ago my friend and I found a dead guy who was hit by a train and fell in a canal in Florida. He looked just like DvF's Monster.

This is also Lon Chaney's final film and though his role is pretty hard to watch - mostly because he just looks so bad - it is of interest as Jr. had played both Dracula and Frankenstein for Universal in the day. So much for hoping for one last Talbot transformation here.

I doubt this film would approach making any real critical list of Frankie films and should probably never bump any single Hammer outing featuring The Monster but it has loads of wild nostalgic value to me and is an easy top-tenner here.

One last note - if you are a big fan of this film be sure to join up over at the Zandor Vorkov Plastic Fang Society. We're talking absurd horror!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Madame Talbot's Posters

While digging through some online Bell Witch lore I came across this cool hand-inked poster site.
Madame Talbot's Victorian Lowbrow..Wish they would do one for the Dozier Coven - relatives of the Bell Witch. Very cool art either way!